Sunday, April 20, 2008

Under the Influence

Last Thursday afternoon, I bunked off work and headed for Borough Market and its boozers.

Here, across five pubs, Agency Iris and magazine Contagious hosted 'Under the Influence', a well oiled discussion of where the industry is headed next.

So I was happy to find the registration table where it was supposed to be. And gave my name, Hayes, to sign in. 'No. First names, please', said the girl with the laptop. 'That IS my first name', I said. 'Oh', she said 'My name's Lydia, which is quite unusual' 'Yes', I said, 'not bad', before heading off to my first pub, the Runaway Tongue.

Shaun McIlrath (2-3pm)
I managed to get one metre inside the door to hear and see ex VCCP and Heresy cd (now executive cd at iris) talk about what we can really do to help consumers.

It was interesting for me to hear about stuff I've been thinking about for the past year. Stuff like 'is this advertising I'm spending my life on actually a creative solution to the problem?' and 'wouldn't this money be better spent somewhere else?'

For example, he explained how they took the launch ad budget for Ocado and turned it into five £10 vouchers for every Ocado customer.

And it reminded me of a solution I pitched for a D&AD workshop brief for As Nature Intended, the health food shop, where we said take the print and poster budget and spend it on a mobile fruit and veg stall to do the rounds in local areas, offering free samples.

So it was good to hear that truly innovative solutions are out there.

I missed out on the chance to ask Shaun if they couldn't have done SOME advertising for Ocado, since the only thing I've ever known them for is blocking up roads.

If I'd known about their vouchers or other little rewards, I might have given them a go. Perhaps it was just a loyalty thing.


Time for a pint of Peroni and to barge myself to the front, where I suddenly found myself in amongst the Iris crew.

So I got chatting to David, a new Iris creative group head from Amsterdam and another Iris chap. We giggled a bit when the Fallon website was brought up on screen, so that someone could call them to find out where their Chairman had gone. Oh here he is now, only a few minutes late.

Laurence Green (3-4pm)
Not quite the quiet chat and a pint Larry had been told it would be (180 had already pre-registered for this spot the day before), but he got over the shock to tell us stories of Sony 'balls' and cadbury's 'gorilla.'

One of the most interesting things for me was that Larry explained how Sony knocked back 'balls' four times before it was accepted (by the way, Prudential also rejected the name 'Egg' three times before it went ahead.)

Both stories mean this: if you really believe in something, you may have to fight for it.

Sony rejected 'balls' first on cost, then on something else, then wanted to change it to say 'SOUND like no other' (collective groan.)

Someone asked Larry 'how do you persuade clients to do stuff like Gorilla?' Great clients, he said, and mentioned a guy at Cadbury's called Chris, who'd worked with Fallon before at Stella.

People like this for me are the real un-sung heroes. More likely than not, it's their balls on the line.

And it's something that occupies my mind more and more when I pitch ideas: you're either up for doing something different or you're not'

And if you're not, well then we might as well all go home.

Except I didn't go home. I got another pint in before heading off to the second venue, The Principled Practicioner, to see the next speaker I'd registered to hear.

John Grant (4-5pm)
John co-founded St Lukes and is author of The Green Marketing Manifesto and his blog, 'Green Normal.'

I'd had a few by this point plus I was late and had to sit on the stairs and couldn't hear very well. He did seem to be wearing a nice cardigan, however and his round glasses looked very right on.

After about 45 minutes, somebody asked him about Ecofatigue, from which the previous speaker, Sophie Thomas, seemed to be suffering, judging by her body language.

That was it for me. Up I hopped, out and off to grab a front row seat to hear the second most rantingest man in the industry blogosphere (Copyranter being the first - RIP), George Parker.

George Parker (5-6pm)
George is the man behind the blog, Adscam, and continued with his ranting tone of voice for his speech.

I don't know whether it was the heat, the crush or the booze, but his swearing wasn't nearly so impressive live and I actually found his tirade rather tedious.

You just kind of feel like saying 'it's not that big and clever', can't you be a bit more constructive' but instead I just stood there and thought dark thoughts.

When he finished, I asked him to be my friend on Facebook just to fuck him off. Then I asked him where he was from, cos he sure as hell ain't from the States (even if he did spend 30 years on Madison Avenue - as what? A beggar?)

Turns out he's from Manchester and he's got one of those terrible half-yank, half-nothern accents that makes him sound like one of the Beatles who got trapped over in the States.

Sorry for the disses, George, but, ya know, what goes around, comes around.

He did tell two stories I remember: One, the first time he met David Ogilvy, he asked about the kind of salary he was going to get. 'My dear boy, I don't discuss money, I have people to do that for me'.

And George remarked that how he was excited as this was a bit like the Queen.

The second story was about working late one night in New York when David Ogilvy. aged 80 something was wheeled in by minders. Everyone stood up and Ogilvy said 'Never forget: advertising is about selling!'

'And you know what?' asked George, 'he was right!'

To be fair to George, he was probably only giving his audience what they came for. And who can blame him with the kind of people who asked questions afer me. One kissed his arse for about a paragraph, just to get a free copy of his book (that only costs around £5 - poor juniors, perhaps), one (a girl) actually asked him out to dinner that night - he said he'd think about it, haha, unlucky, love, you ain't all that!

And then there was the bloke right behind me who shouted so loud I don't remember what he even asked, although I do remember him saying 'can I have the free copy of your book, oh go on, you know you want to' as well as something about '....for example, there's a website where you can ACTUALLY go and choose the colour of your VW Golf and EVERYTHING...'

Not sure of the relevance of this comment, I was too busy laughing at the content.

Oh, plus he fake laughed really loudly at pretty much everything George said.

While I'm on the subject of odious pricks, there was one other there that day - a young cock in a stripy sweater who tried to walk through me instead of round me then walked loudly into a talk, blathering to friends who weren't even listening but all sporting identical man bags. Keep up the good work, fellas.

The Climax and Curtains (6-8pm)
The grand finale. Slightly farcical on account of the shit sound and the fact that 80% of people were intent only on pissed chitter chatter.

Here's a transcript:

Iris CEO Ian Miller, to John Grant, Shan Henderson (head of mobile advertising, vodafone), Sal Pajwani (what if? global CEO) and John Baker, joint MD, Iris: So, how important will blogging be in the future?

Well, murmour, murmour, general murmour, hiss, crackle, dhlh;lasjfelujljdhf;lads jfalsjlfsjhfkahdfkhdslal';k adf'kjhueyaytul ddlfadsjhljskajslhdauilfd slfjdsl jdsajfldsjfaljds ldslk lds jflajdsf ldsjf aldsjfa lawe jhrtuhaiyfdohdyif ds aiy fbha ffd af ;afds ;sfjs dGSHUT THE FUCK UP.dkf;ljaldsfjlsdj sdflkjjfsldsjflkdsj;flsjlskfsdj sl SHUT UP!DJLFSJDLFJLDJLKDJljdlkdjlfkjdlksj;j;fldjsfj;lsdfjlsdjfl;jSHUT THE FUCK UP! dljdfla;jdlf

Not sure who he is but he was at the free bar.

And so it went on. I stuck it out to the end even though I couldn't hear a word. Mainly because the room was so rammed I couldn't get out but also to watch John Baker's face - he never stopped smiling. Good work, John.

Thanks for the free drink and a great afternoon. Go Iris.

Were you there? Who did you hear speak?


Wal said...

muah, sounds like it's been good, thanks for your writeup. we've been there last year and we thought it was rather great. this year we went for the pecha kucha talk instead, as we couldnt take the afternoon off, really. a shame to miss all the free drinks. next time.

George Nimeh said...

Great post and so glad you made it!

I've started putting the vids on Vimeo. Here's David McCandless.

More to come.